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The Boston Celtics were tired from playing the night before and so undermanned that they resorted to a 10-day-contract backcourt for part of the game.
The Washington Wizards were again trying to erase the stigma of mediocrity. Surely, against this Celtics lineup, this would be the night they would end their long and laborious quest to get above .500.
Never mind. The Celtics won. Jeff Green put the team on his shoulders and scored a season-high 39 points, while the Wizards wilted with a display of selfish basketball. Boston blew a 19-point first-half lead, but Gerald Wallace made a driving layup with 2.5 seconds remaining in overtime Wednesday night for the 113-111 victory that snapped a 10-game road losing streak.
"Lot of reasons to give up," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "And they didn't do that."
Green shot early and often, finishing with career-highs in 3-pointers attempted (16) and made (8). Rookie Phil Pressey added a career-high 20 points. The Celtics played without Rajon Rando, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless and at one point had Chris Johnson and Vander Blue, both on 10-day contracts, on the floor together in the second quarter.
"I just put myself in the position where I had to be the man to carry the team and shoot the ball," Green said. "So that's what I did."
John Wall had 28 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double for Washington, but he went 9 for 29 from the field and missed a potential game-winning, contested 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime.
The Wizards haven't won a game to move above .500 since Halloween 2009 and have failed to win this season at 0-0, 9-9, 14-14, 19-19 and 20-20. The milestone has become such a psychological hurdle that coach Randy Wittman this week had to caution against thoughts that "all of a sudden fairy dust is going to fall on us if we get over .500."
This time Wittman was angry because he said his players came down with a case of "I got mine," looking to pad their stats against a team that was supposed to be easy pickings.
"I can get mine because who are we playing?" Wittman said forcefully. "You cannot screw with the basketball gods like that. It always comes back to get you. ... Every player in this league can play. They're in the NBA. Every player can play. And if you don't give them the respect, this is what happens."
Wall pleaded guilty.
"It starts with me," he said. "I took too many shots tonight and didn't move the ball like we're supposed to in the first half. ... For some reason, we don't go out there in that first half when we've got an opportunity to go (above) .500 and play as a team. We get to playing selfish."
Boston's Rondo sat out the second half of a back-to-back in his return from major knee surgery, Bradley is sidelined for about two weeks after spraining his right ankle against the Miami Heat the night before, and recently acquired guard Bayless missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left big toe and is day to day.
Stevens therefore started a lineup consisting of a backup point guard - undrafted rookie Pressey - and four forwards. Blue made his NBA debut after being signed earlier in the day.
The Wizards played the first half as if in slow motion, but the Celtics looked like their patchwork selves in the third quarter, committing a pair of offensive fouls during an 11-0 Wizards run. Martell Webster gave the Wizards their first lead of the game with a four-point play that made the score 88-87 with 6:37 remaining in regulation, but neither team could make a clutch shot in the final minute of the fourth quarter with the score tied.
Pressey had made only 6 of 38 3-pointers all season, but he went 5 for 6 from 3-point range against the Wizards. His 3-pointer in the final minute of overtime gave the Celtics a 111-108 lead.
The Wizards tied the game when Marcin Gortat made 1 of 2 free throws with 13.9 seconds left in the extra period, but they couldn't stop Wallace from making the winning basket.
"We had a good start to the third quarter," Wizards forward Trevor Booker said. "But other than that, we played like doo-doo."